Scenes From My Week

We had been excited for the new mall to open, with the hopes that it would bring some new good restaurants for us to try. Well, it does have a bunch of new restaurants…but almost all of them are Japanese, with at least 3 of them specializing in ramen.

The upside of this is that it’s really good ramen. Not the stuff I subsisted on in college, for example.

Here I am devouring chashu ramen, which I’m pretty sure is just another vehicle with which to imbibe bacon. I would show you the best shrimp tempura I’ve ever tasted, but we ate them all before I thought to take a photo, as is evidenced by the one wee tail left behind there.photo(41)

But mostly I took photos because I really love their dishware. Think they’d notice if I steal a set?photo(39)photo(40)What’s your week looking like? Show us and join in at Communal Global!



Scenes From My Weekend

This week I’m celebrating the fact that I’m feeling up to baking again–a sure sign that life is getting back to normal.
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Or at least, our new normal…

…which includes this guy…

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…and, apparently, cranberry scones._1050626

Happy Tuesday everyone!

 



A Coffee Chat

photo(23)I feel like there were a bunch of things I was going to talk about today…but then last night, I did not sleep well–like, at all–and now everything has gone plumb out of my head.

I did have a productive day yesterday, though. Between catching up on some work for SOLD, doing three loads of laundry, washing dishes that had piled up over the previous day with T being sick, and various other little chores, I managed to get in quite a bit of walking…which, turns out, if done in little spurts and increments, seems to help keep the swelling down in my feet. Then again, it might also be why my back and hips were sore all night.

My goals for today are a bit more cerebral. If I can get enough brain cells to function, I’d like to:

– Practice Thai, since staying at home so much does not give me much chance to hone my language skills (It does, however, keep me at lower risk of catching dengue, so that’s good–seriously, so many people we know got it this year. This season is rough! I never read Dante’s Inferno, but I’m sure there must be a special circle of hell reserved for mosquitoes. And if there isn’t, well, there should be.)

– Read up on what the heck is going on in Syria. I’ve been out of the news loop more than I care to admit these days. Good for my sanity; not so good for my engagement with the rest of the world. A friend of mine linked to this Washington Post article on FB, which I found enormously helpful. Now I just want to read up on various viewpoints of what people anticipate the consequences of and reactions to air strikes are likely to be.

On a more personal note, a few years ago, Toby and I had talked about making a trip to Syria. Some friends had been there and said it was one of the most welcoming countries they’d ever been to (and their trip was during the GW Bush years, mind you)–that far from shunning Americans, the Syrians were excited to meet them and welcome them into their homes for tea and conversation. Now I’m really bummed we didn’t make that trip since it looks like tensions there are unlikely to abate any time soon.

– Then if I feel up to it, I might do some gentle yoga. Probably not a full session, but just a few poses & stretches to strengthen the muscles around my hip joints. They’re ridiculously open and flexible these days, but I can feel that the added flexibility needs to be supported by more muscle strength.

In other news, I came across this recipe for Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider cookies and want to bake them, like, RIGHT NOW…but the recipe calls for Alpine Spice Cider Mix, which, I don’t even know what that is. I’m guessing it’s a powdered mix to make hot apple cider, but whatever it is, I’m pretty certain there is no such thing here in Thailand. I wish I knew what the ingredients were because if it’s just a bunch of spices I could probably approximate it myself. But there’s probably some apple flavoring in there somewhere, which means I’d have to figure out what to do with liquid apple cider in a recipe that calls for it dry. Also, I found the exact same recipe on a different website, and one says it makes 16-18 large cookies, and the other (with the exact same measurements for ingredients) says it makes 51 cookies. (!) I really had to laugh. I like the way the first person counts her cookies–you can eat three and call it just one!

For anyone who likes to see this sort of thing, I made another quick clip of Baby Keller on the move. You can definitely see his movements more clearly these days, since, at 38 weeks, he’s significantly bigger. And this clip has the added benefit of not having a soundtrack of the Sopranos cussing in the background!

Before you go, I’d like to share this quote I saw pinned on Pinterest:

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

The quote seems widely attributed to Carl Jung, but for the life of me I can’t find the original source so I can’t verify it. Anyway, it really stuck with me, not for being a new sentiment, but for so succinctly capturing one of my heart-felt beliefs and general orientation towards life. It also came at a time when several conversations I’ve had or things I’ve read have, without plan or intention, all kind of coalesced around a similar idea–does that ever happen to you? I haven’t really worked my way through it enough to articulate what I’m thinking about, but it’s something to do with valuing experiences and people over things, choosing to be open to life and expand into it over shying away from difference, that giving our kids the gift of courage and resilience is more important than providing them with the trappings of safety, and how lucky I feel to have found a life partner who feels the way I do about these things. The way I’ve written it here maybe sounds like these are either/or dichotomies, but I believe they’re more like ranges or spectrums of values. But it would be incredibly challenging, I think, to share a life with someone with whom one was fundamentally incompatible on these issues.

It’s funny, too, how people can surprise you. Some people you’d think would be up for freewheeling outside the comfort zone end up not, and those who can appear shy or even fragile end up being some of the strongest or bravest people you know. Not that any of it is a front, per se…I think people are just brave in different ways.

Okay, now I’m rambling, it’s officially time to stop. What’s going on with you? Anything on your mind lately?

Scenes From My Weekend

_1050424This weekend, I made French toast with a baked apple crumble on top. My energy and will to bake is waning these days, so I needed something real simple. Nothing easier than tossing some apples with sugar, oats, & spice into the oven while I whip up the toast. No recipe, pure whim.

_1050428-2Good to go easy these days, as I head into week 38 of pregnancy. Also, my husband is nursing a cold–which means I’m nursing his cold (and praying I don’t catch it), at least for as long as I can stand on my swollen feet and string two thoughts together.

Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend! I’m looking forward to seeing how you all celebrated!



A Tour of My Kitchen

I never thought my little kitchen would be worthy of any interest, but since a couple of people have asked about where all my baking happens, it seemed like it would be fun to give y’all a little tour. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home, isn’t it? In Thai, the kitchen (hong krua) literally translates to “family room,” which is a sentiment I quite like.

So, welcome to my kitchen!

_1050415We have a pretty porch with big formal glass doors that open up to the living room…but nobody actually enters the house that way. In keeping with Thai style, everyone comes in through the side of the house, via the kitchen. Don’t mind our motorbikes. On the left, that’s a bike shelf Toby made. And, of course, we take off our shoes before entering the house. Except we keep the majority of our shoes on a rack in the kitchen because stray dogs in our neighborhood have been known to steal shoes. I lost a perfectly good pair of Rainbows thanks to Dot’s mom. (Admittedly, I did take her baby, so I guess it’s fair.)

And here’s the kitchen itself. The red is a color I would not have chosen myself, but I’m okay with it. The windows did have fancy red curtains to match, but after I took them down one day to have them washed, I discovered how much more natural light we get without them. So I never put them back up.

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As you can see, we have plenty of helmets so you can take your pick if you ever come to visit and want to tool around on one of our motorbikes.

 

This is what you’d see from the vantage point of the rest of the house.

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There’s Toby working in his office. Hi Toby!

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You might feel encouraged to pity us for our small fridge…

_1050413…until you see how little food we actually have inside it.

_1050414This is because, for the most part, it’s far cheaper to eat out in Thailand (or pick up food to bring home) — at restaurants, little street side carts, or open air markets — than it is to go shopping and make everything yourself. A lot of times, even if you do prefer to cook yourself, many items can be bought pre-cut or pre-prepared (freshly done that day), so all you have to do is toss it together in the final soup or stir-fry. If we want to, Toby and I can get by on less than $5 or 6 a day spent on food, eating at our favorite places (we’re not scrimping on taste here), whereas a meal cooked at home might run closer to an average of $20-30. So really, the only reason to cook at home is if you want something in particular that isn’t easy to get elsewhere.

Most of the time, if it’s just the two of us, I might cook at home once or twice a week, then we’ll go out for street food 2-3 times a week, spending about $2-3 for a meal, and then the rest of the time, go out to our favorite Burmese, Vietnamese, Mexican, or Thai restaurants, spending about $10-12 per meal at those.

Unless I’m cooking or baking more (as I have been since I got pregnant), the vast majority of our grocery bill goes to coffee, breakfast stuff, and snacks.

Speaking of coffee, this is our coffee making station:

_1050418All we need is good beans, a burr grinder to grind the beans, and that little tube thing there is called an Aeropress. I’m generally not a snob or judgmental about most things (at least I like to think so), but I am a total judgmental snob about coffee. I see people talking so much about their fancy Keurigs and k-cups and cannot fathom spending so much money on machinery when the soul of coffee is in the beans. In the States, we got our beans from Verve. We especially enjoyed Central American beans for their citrusy undertones. Here, we buy local, fair-trade Thai hill tribe beans, which are amazingly flavorful for being relatively new to the coffee scene.

And the Aeropress in which we make the coffee ran us about $35. It takes approximately 3 minutes to grind the beans, pour in the hot water over the ground beans, (which we always have at boiling point in a little counter-top hot water doohickey popular here in Asia–so you can always have Ramen at a moment’s notice), stir, then press into our coffee mugs, and add milk (and sugar for T). It takes me less time to do this from start to finish, including serving the coffee and washing the Aeropress afterward, than it takes my dad to just prep and set up his drip machine.

The Aeropress, similar to a French press, is popular with coffee aficionados snobs like us because the process extracts all the flavor from the beans, but you stop just before extracting the bitterness. We also love it because it’s so small and easy to pack, so when we travel we can ensure we always have good coffee with us.

Anyway, I think part of why I’ve been asked about my kitchen is because ovens aren’t exactly standard features in Asian homes. But I cannot imagine life without baking, so we broke down and bought me this:

_1050417See it? My little counter top convection oven. Kind of a glorified toaster oven, really. But it suits my needs perfectly.

_1050416Yes, that is a baking stone sitting there on top. Yes, I did actually lug a stone in my suitcase, all the way from the U.S. to here. I have no defense.

The oven won’t fit a big Thanksgiving turkey, but I do use it almost daily to toast sandwiches, roast veggies or lamb chops, or bake tea breads, scones, and quiches.

Especially since I got this shipped out to me:

_1050419My tart pan with a removable bottom! Perfect for achieving fluted edges like this:

_1050411But, if you’re not careful, also perfect for achieving floor tart. I once spent hours of sweat and toil putting together a treacle tart (in honor of Harry Potter Book 7 coming out, treacle tart being Harry’s favorite), and it came out so pretty and golden….but I forgot the pan’s bottom is designed to pop out, so when I pulled it out of the oven, I grabbed it from the bottom and not from the sides. It pushed the bottom up, the sides dropped down and burned my arms, and I promptly dropped the whole shebang right on the floor. I stood in shock and dismay for several minutes, then called Toby at work, tearfully relaying the whole disaster, and he insisted we could still scrape it up and eat the parts that weren’t actually touching the floor. Hence, floor tart.

I don’t recommend it. I also don’t recommend burning your arms.

Anyway, that’s my kitchen. However, I might be remiss if I didn’t point out that my beloved dish set that was a wedding gift to us is not actually kept in the kitchen. Nope, those babies are on display here in our dining room:

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Hello, high chair! Awaiting Baby Keller’s arrival…

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And that concludes our tour for today. Hope you enjoyed it!

A Coffee Chat

Analog(1)

Who says coffee and cookies do not a balanced breakfast make?

The big news around here (for me, at least) is that I’ve hit the 37-week mark of this pregnancy, which means the baby is technically considered full-term, even though his due date is still about 3 weeks away. So if he decides to come early, most likely all would be fine with him.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel really ready for his arrival. Mother Nature is so smart about these things. Where I used to be terrified of it; now, I’m like “Bring it!” I’m actually even almost curious to discover how I’ll do through it, like it’s the next big adventure. While I’m not in a rush for him to come (he still needs a little more time developing!), I am definitely ready to not be pregnant anymore. I’m ready to have my body back, even if it will sag and droop in places it didn’t use to do. I’m ready to be able to sleep on my stomach and not feel little fingers and toes squirm in protest. Although the baby and I will still be joined at the hip (or boob), I’m looking forward to being able to at least set the weight down from time to time–or pass it off to his father (heh heh).

I’m ready for a stiff cocktail.

Even if I still can’t have many of those either, what with breastfeeding and all.Analog(2)We had a visit with the doctor on Friday and all is right on track: baby hasn’t dropped yet (which is an approximate sign of impending labor), but he is head down (which is a very good thing) and he’s an estimated 3 kgs (6.6 lbs). The swollen feet I complained of last week were all considered within normal range for this point in the pregnancy, and actually the swelling seems to have gone down a bit over the past couple of days, which is a relief. I had read that weight gain can come to a stop, or even drop a little bit in the last month of pregnancy…I was skeptical, but it seems to be true, as I’ve even lost a couple of pounds this week. While the baby is still getting bigger, apparently the weight loss is due to reduced amniotic fluid as the baby fills out the belly. (It’s definitely not from the baked goods I’ve been consuming…though, wouldn’t that be nice.)

So that’s cool.

The other bit that makes me happy is that we had a chance to have friends over for a visit this weekend, and they brought their beautiful new 2-month old daughter. We were really curious to see how Dot would act around the baby as she hasn’t spent any time with babies before. Kids, yes (ever since she was a wee pup, I made a point to bring her to SOLD with me every chance I got specifically so she would learn to be good around kids), but the youngest child of her acquaintance has been about 3 years old. We were afraid she might bark or be nervous, but she did absolutely nothing of the sort. Her demeanor spoke of nothing but pure curiosity…all she wanted to do was sniff little Kate’s feet. She was very gentle around her (and of course we kept very close and watchful in case she wasn’t). She gave the baby space, was respectful as Kate slept in the bouncer on the floor while we ate lunch, and really seemed both fascinated by the baby and to understand the need to be delicate around her. We were very pleased, and are hopeful that this will bode well for when our little bean comes home.

_TMK0948-2On a quieter note, Toby and I have been feeling a tiny bit homesick for California these days. I don’t know if it’s because of the baby coming, or in spite of it…if it’s due to the time of year, or due to the likelihood that we would have traveled somewhere by now if I weren’t pregnant…but we’re thinking of home and our friends there. California is spectacular at this time of year too, the lazy hazy dog days of summer shift as the airs turns crisp towards fall and everything smells and tastes of pumpkin spice.

I miss wearing jackets. I miss socks.

And a couple of our best friends are expecting their first babe too–due on the same day as ours! They’re the kind of friends who, when we lived around the corner from each other, we would pop by for impromptu visits, or invite over for pie just because. As our pregnancies come to an end now, I feel a sadness that we’re not together, that we must share this time from so far away.

Well, all this talk of California is also making me crave Mexican food! I think that’s what I’m going to do for lunch today!

What’s going on with you? Are you feeling the hankering for autumn too? Happy Wednesday everyone!

 

Scenes From My Weekend

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We had friends over to visit this weekend–our first chance to really spend some time with them since they gave birth to their beautiful baby girl a couple of months ago.

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It was low-key and lovely…and full of fresh-baked quiche. I made this one with bacon, caramelized onions, Gruyere, and Parmesan. I kind of want some more right now.

How was your weekend?

 



Scenes From My Weekend

Waking up my husband…photo(19)…with maple walnut scones, for a Saturday breakfast in bed.

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Things (i.e. getting up early to bake on Saturdays) are getting a little more challenging now at the end of my pregnancy, so I have a feeling this little breakfast in bed tradition might go on hiatus for a while.

Unless I just do something like toast and jam. I could probably still handle that.

Till the baby comes.

What did your weekend look like? Share glimpses with us at Communal Global and link up below!



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